06:11 GMT14 August 2020
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    As the showdown over the rebel-occupied city of Idlib in northern Syria looms, the US has made numerous predictions that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is planning to use chemical weapons during the battle, despite providing no evidence and even flimsier motives for such an event.

    Steve Gowans, a journalist and author of the book "Washington's Long War on Syria," told Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear Monday that Western talk of chemical weapons use in Idlib was nothing new, saying he "saw reference to this weeks ago."

    "It's such an obvious attempt to manipulate public perception, to justify some kind of intervention in Syria," he told hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker.

    He noted that the US said it had intelligence indicating Assad was planning some kind of an attack, but what, where and when are details they were short on.

    "What is the source? Who knows. Is there really any source, or is there any substance to any of this? I doubt it very much."

    ​As early as August 22, US national security adviser John Bolton claimed the US would respond "in a swift and appropriate manner to any verified chemical weapons use in Idlib or elsewhere in Syria," Sputnik reported.

    "We've tried to convey the message in recent days that if there's a third use of chemical weapons, the response will be much stronger," Bolton said Monday. "I can say we've been in consultations with the British and the French who have joined us in the second strike, and they also agree that another use of chemical weapons will result in a much stronger response."

    In other words, the US is gearing up for an intensification of its involvement in Syria, not a decrease, as Daesh and other Syrian rebels grow closer to defeat.

    Bolton rejected accusations that the US' blanket stance was a de facto authorization for al-Qaeda to use chemical weapons and then blame the Syrian government. Indeed, the Russian Defense Ministry has been warning since Saturday that Tahrir Ash-Sham (also known as al-Qaeda in Syria) and the Turkestan Islamic Movement are planning such a provocation.

    Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Pentagon was considering striking Russian or Iranian forces in Syria if they launched an assault on Idlib, Sputnik reported. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a NATO ally who has taken a more direct part in the peace process, having become one of the self-declared guarantors of the Syrian peace process, wrote an op-ed for the WSJ published late Monday also urging the attack on Idlib be forestalled.

    Gowans said the allegations are "almost beside the point." The much larger issue, he said, is the US strategy announced in the last few days. "It's a very aggressive policy and one that should be of great concern. It's a policy that involves the continued, illegal and indefinite occupation of roughly one-third to 40 percent of Syrian territory by US forces. It's a policy that involves US interference in Syrian attempts to liberate Idlib from the control of al-Qaeda forces… they're also talking about confronting Iranian forces and driving them out of Syria."

    Fars News Agency reported that dozens of trucks had arrived at the at-Tanf military base, the primary US foothold in Syria, and over a hundred had been sent to various Syrian Democratic Forces locations in the region ahead of the impending offensive in Idlib, Sputnik reported Monday.

    Gowans told Sputnik that US statements about the forces in Syria contained the secret to their plans.

    "There's more than 2,000 troops there; the Pentagon acknowledges that. It says, ‘Well there's 2,000 that we're willing to acknowledge, but there are those who are there covertly, which we're not gonna tell you about.' So the United States is pursuing a semi-covert war in a large part of the Syrian territory."

    "In all of this," he said, "the goal is to dictate the form and nature and raison d'etre of the Syrian state."

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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    Loud and Clear, foreign intervention, provocation, chemical weapons attack, Idlib, United States, Syria
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